After a long period of social isolation due to COVID-19, NHBP Tribal youth are once again participating in the international empowerment program Girls on the Run.
Hosted by local elementary schools for girls in grades 3 through 5, “Girls on the Run is a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization… designed to enhance girls’ social, emotional and physical skills and behaviors to successfully navigate life experiences,” according to its website.
“I liked ‘STAR Power’ the best,” said Tribal Member Kendall Goldner, 10, a soon-to-be fifth grader at Schoolcraft Elementary. The program introduces a new concept each session, such as standing up for yourself, friendship and not taking from others’ stars when they shine.
“I liked hanging out with my friends,” said Tribal Member Brooklyn Goldner, 10, who’s also going into fifth grade at Schoolcraft Elementary.
For Tribal Member Aurora Ansley, 9, who attends East Leroy Elementary and will be in fourth grade this year, her biggest takeaway was that it’s important to be herself and that she is valued as “kind and artistic.” Ansley’s lessons learned demonstrated that Girls on the Run isn’t simply a running program, but rather, twice a week the participants learn the importance of being themselves.
The program relies on local coaches to lead programs at the schools, one of whom is NHBP Community Health Outreach Manager Shelby Brueck.
“The things that I talk to these girls about, I don’t remember worrying about these issues at their age,” said Brueck, who coached at East Leroy Elementary for the sixth year in 2022.
Brueck comes back every year because, “meeting the girls and getting to know them is my favorite part.”
Although the Girls on the Run season culminates in a non-competitive 5K (3.1 miles) race, it’s not a requirement to participate.
“It’s okay if you’re not fast, you should just try it,” advised Kendall Goldner to other girls considering running the 5K.
Her father, Matt Goldner, self-timed the race that she completed in an impressive 25:30. Brooklyn ran a slightly slower, but still very fast, time of 30:30 because she stayed behind to run with friends to encourage them to complete the race and do their best.
“My favorite part of the race was where they gave us the water,” said Kendall Goldner, whose school participated in the 5K alongside Kalamazoo County schools at Kalamazoo Valley Community College in May 2021.
Ansley decided to not participate in the race, due to the large crowds that the event draws. Brueck says that running the race isn’t mandatory; the only expectation of the program is that the girls come to the practices each week and try their best to carry those life lessons forward.
As for the Goldner sisters, who will be eligible to participate next year: “Yeah, we’ll do it again.”
“Every year, I enjoy it more and more,” Brueck said about coaching for Girls on the Run.
Congratulations to all the NHBP Tribal youth for their participation in Girls on the Run in 2022: